Is a wife’s or husband’s happiness more important to long-term marital happiness?

Being the investigative journalist that I am I set out to answer that question by going to the top source for all things: Google.  A quick search led me to find several studies to definitively answer my question.

Study #1 : University of California Berkeley and Northwestern University

Findings: The happiness of a marriage may depend on who calms down first during an argument.  The study found that the length of time that a couple was upset with each other directly impacted their long-term marital happiness.  They also noted that when the wife calmed down quickly the relationship was happier in the short and long term.

Study #2: Journal of Marriage and Family, 2014

Findings: For marital quality, the wife’s happiness matters more than the husband’s.  When the wife is happy with the marriage, the husband is happier no matter how he feels about the marriage.  The study also found that a wife’s happiness with a marriage waned when their husband was sick.  A husband’s happiness did not change due to a wife’s illness.

Study #3: University of Chicago

Findings: A husband’s good health and positive attitude matter most to a marriage’s happiness.  These same traits in the wife did not seem to be as important to the relationship.

Study #4: Personality and Individual Differences, 2015

Findings:  Women with taller husbands are happier.  The greater the height difference between husband and wife, the higher the overall happiness of the wife.

Study #5:  Dalton Conley, NYU, Panel Study of Income Dynamics, 2014

Findings: Short men were less likely to get divorced, more likely to share housework, and be the breadwinners at home.  Short men are more likely to partner with women who are older, less educated, and younger

The studies I researched seemed to be inconclusive overall.  To be fair I found studies that showed that husbands with skinnier wives were happier, wives with husbands that made substantial amounts of money were happier, and couples with bigger weddings had more long-term happiness.

Happiness Gap

That is when I found a German study from a few years back in which a team of economists identified a marriage phenomenon they call the happiness gap.  The study found that the bigger the difference between the happiness of husbands and wives the greater the risk of a break-up.  More important in their findings was that the effect was only seen when the husband was feeling better about the relationship than his wife.

They found the happiness gap widened when the wife did most of the housework, had a different social background to their husband, or if they had a higher income.  The happiness gap narrowed when the couple had similar social backgrounds, a common religion, shared chores, or the wife was a housewife.  Previous studies show that couples who marry with similar levels of schooling, age, country of origin, ethnicity, religion, and social background have longer marriages.

So, what do you think?  Do you have a happiness gap in your marriage?  Are there ways you can help narrow a happiness gap in your marriage?  I tend to think that the solution to a husband having more happiness in a marriage is not becoming less happy to close the gap with his wife but working to increase her happiness.  One of the things that we push quite regularly is that a wife’s actions to show respect to her husband have an enormous affect on his happiness and then his willingness to be a better husband.  It would seem to indicate that a husband’s ability to show love to his wife would be the ultimate gap closer so that they both could be happy in the marriage.

What the happiness gap study tells me is that a healthy marriage starts with two people working together to enjoy each other.  When you look around at other married people that you think have a great marriage they both seem to bring out the best in each other.  How is it that they bring out the best in each other?  They are each making decisions as one flesh and not letting their own selfish desires be a part of their marriage.